I don't own Storm Hawks.

Chapter One - Protector

Starling hated this feeling of complete helplessness. She was totally unarmed; she was alone in some Cyclonian cell.

She felt like she could drop dead on the spot but she remained steadily on her feet and stared the Dark Ace directly in the eyes. She hid her uneasiness and discomfort very well as his red eyes roamed over her body as if it were a raw piece of flesh waiting to be devoured.

She had perfected the aloof mask of emotionless over the years as the only surviving member of the Interceptors. She had failed ten years ago trying to protect her friends but she certainly wouldn't fail this time. She wouldn't let the Storm Hawks die; she was ready to do anything to keep them alive.

She fought off the small wave of doubt about her decision and resolve when she saw his lips twist into one of the most unnerving smirks she had ever seen on someone. But her mask was still perfectly in place.

"You want me to protect them?" he asked in mock surprise, raising his thick eyebrows in a questioning manner. "And why do you think I would do such a stupid thing?"

Starling unconsciously dug her nails into the soft and dirty flesh of her palms. It was just a small gesture but he surely had noticed, for he smirked again and chuckled lightly. It was probably the most unpleasant thing she had ever heard.

"They're just kids…," she trailed of, feeling a bit foolish. She was trying to pander to his nonexistent compassion. As if he cared that they were just children. This was, after all, the man, who had murdered his own squadron in cold blood.

But she was desperate, she just couldn't let them die.

This time he laughed. Loudly ridiculing her but Starling kept her stance. Too much was at stake, she couldn't do something irrational like attacking him. She had to stay calm and collected.

"They're soldiers, Starling," he said after his mocking laughter subsided, though the amusement was still prevalent in his voice, "And they unfortunately fought on the wrong side of the war like you. They'll get what they deserve."


"Why are you so worried about them?" he cut her off stepping closer to her until they were almost nose to nose. Starling resisted the urge to push him away and kept her eyes on his. "You should worry about yourself and besides," he stopped suddenly and smirked, his eyes glinting sinisterly in the pale light. "Even if I should decide to keep them form certain death how would I benefit from it?"

"You can't let them die," her voice displayed the confidence and certainty she lacked inwardly; hiding her doubts and fears immaculately.

"You're really desperate to save them, aren't you?" he asked as he cupped her chin with his gloved hand and raised her head a bit.

Starling didn't move. She just let him and remained silent, refusing to give him the answer he already knew.

He turned her head a bit to the side, so that her left cheek was facing him. He lifted his other hand and traced the long cut that started from her cheekbone and went down to the corner of her mouth, stopping just a few inches before it connected with the rosy flesh of her lips.

He was doing this on purpose. She knew he wanted her to push his hand away, to push him away, to see her mask cracking. He was touching her in this way and making her wait for an answer only to unnerve her more. But she wouldn't budge. She wouldn't fall for his twisted mind games. She knew he wasn't done yet, he had something on his mind, something she wouldn't like.

"I could help them," he said, breaking the tense quietness that hung between them.

Starling's eyes widened barely, yet she was certain her almost invisible display of surprise didn't go undetected by him.

She didn't say anything, waiting for him to continue. He wasn't done yet. There would be a catch; he would never help her just like that. There was going to be a condition.

"I'm actually ready to grant your wish…but," he paused, making her wait unnecessarily longer only to relish her hidden nervousness.

Starling cringed inwardly. He was too good at this; he just knew how to play with your head. He had always been able to read a person like an open book. Even as a Storm Hawk he would use his enemies' insecurities against them.

"But," Starling urged him to continue, her voice not even remotely betraying her dread.

"But since I would actively work against Master Cyclonis' orders, don't you think I would deserve some sort of payment?"

"What exactly do you have in mind?" Starling asked, fearing the worst. She didn't like where this was going, at all. Her neck started to hurt because of the odd angle he had twisted her head.

"Well," he drawled, making her look at him again. He put his hand on her hip and pulled her close, making their chests press against each other. Her body stiffened immediately at the contact, it was as if her blood had frozen in her veins.

She didn't like this at all. He couldn't possible want her to…

He bent his head slightly to the side until she felt his lips and breath against her ear. She tensed even more as he whispered into her ear with a suggestively and unpleasantly low voice.

"What do you think, Starling?"